• CMA backs merger of Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals FT and Poole Hospital FT 
  • Restriction which previously stopped trusts from merging now lifted
  • However, trusts say July merger deadline will not be met 

Regulators have approved a merger between two foundation trusts after initially blocking the plans seven years ago.

The Competition and Markets Authority has given the green light to long-running merger plans between Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trust and Poole Hospital FT. 

However, the trusts said the merger will not go ahead on 1 July as previously planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today’s announcement marks a major step forward for the two trusts, after their plans were previously blocked by the CMA’s predecessor — the Competition Commission — in 2013. The incident became a notorious example of the problems competition rules were causing for NHS structural change.

The CMA has confirmed it has lifted a restriction placed on the trusts in 2013 which prevented them from merging for another 10 years. 

The CMA said: “The CMA’s investigation in this case has confirmed that competition between NHS hospitals now plays little role in the provision of NHS services in the east Dorset area, with collaboration often viewed as a better way to meet increasing demands for care and deliver better value.”

Trust bosses welcomed the CMA’s approval, and will work with NHS England to establish a new date for the merger. 

Debbie Fleming, joint chief executive of Poole Hospital and The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals Foundation Trusts, said: “This announcement is very welcome news as our hospitals will be much stronger working together to make the best use of our resources.

“Our two trusts have never worked more closely together than now to provide the best care possible for our region and I am delighted with the CMA’s findings to allow us to progress together.”

The CMA is an independent body that investigates proposed mergers between organisations to make sure they do not reduce competition that improves the quality of services.